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March 4, 2024

CLF Feb 2024 Debrief: MathWorks part 2 - The Future

Wilfried Rijsemus


Last January we heard Hans Scharler of MathWorks talk about his experience of 20 years of community building experience and 10 years at MathWorks Developer and Scientist community. If you want to see more, then go here.

This February 2024 Hans talked more about the future and the topics he felt needed to be addressed. No presentation this time but questions were sent out upfront in the mailer to the members to prepare for the conversation. Again, the room was electric. We had an excellent turnup rate and with the crew, we got right to it. We had 6 questions and they were almost all answered.

The Questions

That Hans posed were of course of a more advanced nature. It was heartwarming to see that everybody chipped in:

  1. As more questions get answered with ChatGPT, how do we signal to our power users that their time is needed within the community?
  2. Easy questions in the forum are being answered outside of the community. This leaves complex and challenging questions that require more dialogue and context. How do we avoid burnout?
  3. What impact have mentorship programs had in your community, and how do you facilitate effective mentor-mentee relationships?
  4. What strategies have you found effective in managing language barriers and cultural differences within a global community?
  5. In this era of Gen AI, how do you maintain privacy and trust? The context here is if you build new AI models on user-contributed content. How would you go about this? A lot of communities are thinking about how they evolve in this era.
  6. I have struggled with "idea" areas in communities. What mechanisms have you put in place to gather and act on feedback from your community to improve products and services?

The (not-so-simple 😉) Answers

For a large part of the conversation, we talked about rewards. A striking amount of community managers who have been running communities for a long time reported that rewarding - leading to power users staying engaged - has a clear limit. Especially reward programs with perks that can be monetized, like T-shirts but also money or free tickets, backfired on them. Some of them also reported that tax and financial valuation became a problem as the organization was paying members to do something. We discussed things like recognition, access to people, and influencing roadmaps as valuable instruments. The book by Daniel Pink “Drive” was mentioned as a good reference book. Intrinsic over extrinsic motivation.

Interestingly a discussion was held around whether Customer Support should at all participate in answering questions. The majority felt it should but that the embedding of that process in Customer Support is something that needs careful attention. Most community business cases rely on reducing customer support efforts as a baseline.

Mentoring did not yield any immediate response. We did discuss the dynamics once again with rock-star members and the dangerous dynamics of excluding novice users who may feel intimidated. The conclusion led to the need to have a clear growth program in place for novices to grow in their role and less mentor-mentee models.

We concluded that transactional content should be kept in one place. Content should then be translated in situ. As soon as the group had a more peer-to-peer nature where the sense of belonging and trust were key ingredients, the group generally felt that a special language group was the right way forward.

The first experiences with AI-generated content are mixed. After an initial “wow”, the realization sinks in that AI is nothing but smart automation and it is only as good as the LLM it sits on and the way it learns without bias. Whether content is trusted depends on how much is at stake and whether a possible trial with the answer is satisfactory or not. Right now, “optional AI” seems the best approach. John Backx will present his optional AI experiences in the March Edition of the Community Leaders Forum.

Join Us

You too can be part of this group of community managers. It is a true community. You give and you get. All members gladly share their stories and also can ask the questions they are struggling with. Just go here and register. It’s once a month every last Thursday. 10x a year. Access is free.

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